The LA Galaxy last year demonstrated how starting the postseason in the Knockout Round is no impediment to winning a championship, but they are still thankful they get to avoid this year's edition after pulling out a 1-1 draw Sunday night in Seattle.
They've got some creaking bodies that need time to heal, including those of Landon Donovan, Omar Gonzalez and Todd Dunivant, and they welcome a full week of preparation for their playoff opener next Sunday against Real Salt Lake at the StubHub Center.
“Very important,” said Donovan, who is still bothered by a sprained left ankle that's slowed him (and on occasion stopped him) for the past six weeks. “I was thinking at the end of the game that was a really tough game we played, for both teams. Both teams probably come out of that pretty beat up, and if we had to play Wednesday or Thursday, that'd be very tough.
“So we'll happily take a week of rest, and then we've got a real hard game against a team that I think has been the best team in the league over the last four or five years, in Salt Lake.”
Gonzalez, who has played most of the season with an adductor/hip strain he suffered in last year's MLS Cup final, agrees.
“This is huge. Because the effort we put out tonight, it would have been hard to go again on Wednesday,” he told reporters in Seattle. “So to get this draw and put us in for a game on the weekend is huge. I know some guys need some treatment, including myself, so we're going to take this week to put in a good effort in practice, get the bodies ready and concentrate toward Salt Lake.”
To get here, LA needed a late strike from Robbie Keane after a perfectly fine Gonzalez goal just before halftime wasn't counted after Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso cleared his header from a good yard or more inside the net.
“If we ended up losing this game, that would have been a talking point for a long time ...,” head coach Bruce Arena noted. “It's important that we have the rest this week, and the game [in Seattle] is very similar to what we're going to see in the playoffs.”
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Donovan likes the conference semifinal matchup, just on aesthetics.
“The beauty with playing [RSL] is that both teams try to play and attack, so it should make for a very exciting series,” he said. “A lot of times in the playoffs, you'll see teams sort of bunker in and be safe, but we know when they come to LA, they like to play [attacking soccer]. It's a big field, they'll try to play, and we always try to play at home. And when we go there [for the second leg the following weekend], it will be the same.
“It should be an exciting series, and it's going to come down to who makes the most plays.”